Broken clouds, light snow
Broken clouds, light snow
17.6 °F
December 13, 2017
River Reporter Facebook pageTRR TwitterRSS Search
news

Approvals for Bloomingburg development may be rescinded

By Fritz Mayer
May 26, 2016

The Mamakating planning board, which at least for now still has jurisdiction over Bloomingburg planning decisions, unanimously adopted a resolution on May 24 calling for developer Shalom Lamm to explain why the approvals granted for his controversial development Villages at Chestnut Ridge should not be rescinded. The resolution explains that the planning board will consider rescinding the approvals.

The approvals were granted based on the information contained in environmental documents, which are required by the state for such developments. The resolution says the information provided to the planning board as part of the environmental review process seems to be false. That assertion is based on documents unsealed by a federal court in April in which Lamm reveals that the intent of the development was ultimately to house thousands of Hasidic families, which would put the population well beyond what was foreseen in the environmental documents.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) dates to June 2009 and according to the resolution said "that the anticipated number of occupants of the 396-dwelling unit project will not exceed 810 and that the number of school-age children will not exceed 110." But the documents unsealed by the court last month, according to the resolution, "appear to demonstrate the developer's plan to develop the lands contiguous to and in the area of the Chestnut Ridge project for the construction of 5,000 dwelling units over a 10-15 year development period, lands already acquired or optioned by the developer."

The resolution says it appears that the size of the community that was laid out in the unsealed documents, would have environmental impacts, which had not been taken into account, on water, sewer, traffic, government services, schools and other areas. The planning board scheduled a "due process hearing for the applicant/developer to be held on June 16, 2016, at 7:00 PM, at the Town Hall."


TOWN OF MAMAKATING PLANNING BOARD CONSIDERATION OF RESCISSION OF CHESTNUT RIDGE APPROVALS

WHEREAS: The Villages at Chestnut Ridge townhouse project is a 396-dwelling unit project proposed for construction on both sides of Winterton Road, which project was approved by the Village of Bloomingburg Planning Board. Prior to the granting of those approvals, the Village of Bloomingburg Board of Trustees adopted a SEQR Findings Statement which was based upon a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) prepared and submitted by the applicant/developer, Sullivan Farms II, Inc.
The Planning Board, in granting the site plan and subdivision approvals to the project, was required to, and did, rely upon the DEIS, FEIS and Findings Statement. The SEQR environmental review process, and the determination of potential adverse environmental impacts that can or cmmot be mitigated, is an integral and indispensable part of the land development review process.

The environmental and community impacts of any large residential project relate directly to the reasonably projected and actual number of occupants of the project. The number of occupants relates directly to capacity of the water supply system and wastewater treatment system, and the potential impacts of those systems on other properties, the community and environment; impacts on and capacity of community and governmental facilities and services; traffic and transportation impacts; impacts on schools; and fiscal impacts.

The DEIS is dated February 20, 2009, and the FEIS is dated June 10, 2009. The DEIS and FEIS state, repeatedly, that the anticipated number of occupants of the 396-dwelling unit project will not exceed 810 and that the number of school-age children will not exceed 110. The DEIS and FEIS also state repeatedly that the occupants of the townhouse units will be persons with higher incomes, young childless professionals, and older, empty-nesters and retirees who will use the dwelling unit as a second home or retirement home. These statements are made in the DEIS and FEIS to support a finding that water supply, wastewater treatment, traffic, and community and governmental services, including schools, housing assistance and transportation, will not be adversely impacted by the total occupancy or school-age children occupancy of the project.

Last month, documents prepared by the principals of the Chestnut Ridge developer and associates became public. The documents were obtained in litigation commenced by the Chestnut Ridge developer and others against the Town of Mamakating, the Town Planning Board, the Village of Bloomingburg and others. The documents were produced by the developer's attorney to the Town's attorney for 'attorneys' eyes only' in an effort to prevent the documents from becoming public. The federal court judge re-designated those documents as public documents, because "the public's interest in disclosure substantially outweighs the plaintiffs' interest in keeping this material from public view."

The four sets of documents are: "The Villages of Chestnut Ridge Executive Summary - Very Highly Confidential," dated January 14, 2013; emails exchange between developer Kenneth Nakdimen and associates, dated October 17 and 18, 2012; "The Villages of Chestnut Ridge" apparent slides of PowerPoint presentation, undated (although prior to July 2012); and "Black Creek Holdings, LLC, Executive Summary," dated December 2011, including property appraisal (dated November 3, 2011), plans, aerial photos, and biographies.

The documents state that the Chestnut Ridge developers worked "in complete secrecy" since at least early 2006, and as early as 2002, with the apparent intent to develop the Chestnut Ridge project for exclusive occupancy by families that on average, have eight children each.

The documents appear to demonstrate the developer's intent to sell or rent at least 20%, and preferably 40%, of the dwelling units to occupants who qualify for Section 8 housing assistance. The documents appear to demonstrate the developer's plan to develop the lands contiguous to and in the area of the Chestnut Ridge project for the construction of 5,000 dwelling units over a 10-15 year development period, lands already acquired or optioned by the developer.

The documents appear to demonstrate that the statements and representations in the DEIS and FEIS regarding the number of people who will occupy the project, the number of school-age children who occupy the project, and the income and age of the future occupants of the project are materially false. Based on the documents, it appears that the Chestnut Ridge project, as planned and intended, may cause direct and significantly adverse environn1ental and community impacts that were not identified or evaluated in the EISs prepared by the developer.

Water supply. Based on the documents, occupancy of the Chestnut Ridge project as intended by the developer will result in a population of approximately 3,960 persons residing in Chestnut Ridge, which is almost five times greater than the maximum population of 810 repeatedly stated in the DEIS and FEIS by the developer. Based on the water supply system data and calculations set forth in the DEIS and FEIS, the yield of the water supply wells discussed in the EISs significantly fails to serve the project as intended by the developer. According to the EISs, the project's water supply system yields 165 gallons per minute (gpm), or 237,600 gallons per day (gpd). Using the formula and requirements for water supply set forth in the EISs, occupancy by 3,960 persons requires the water system to supply either 356,250 or 445,500 gpd, far in excess of the water supply yield documented in the EISs.

Wastewater treatment. Similarly, occupancy of the project as intended by the developers will cause wastewater treatment discharge in the range of 237,600 - 297,000 gpd, far in excess of the 110,000 gpd cited in the DEIS or the 176,320 gpd cited in the FEIS. The wastewater treatment plant intended to serve the Chestnut Ridge project and other properties has a wastewater treatment capacity of 325,000 gpd. The DEIS and FEIS state that 72,000 gpd is allocated to existing development in the Village of Bloomingburg and that the balance of the treatment plant capacity is allocated to specified planned development in the Village in addition to Chestnut Ridge. Discharge of 237,000 - 297,000 gpd by Chestnut Ridge, when added to discharges by the existing and specified planned development, will far exceed the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant.

The recently disclosed documents state the developer's intent to construct a mikvah with14 boros and a shul on the Chestnut Ridge property, which are not identified in the EISs or approved by the Planning Board, and which would further overwhelm the capacities of the water supply system and wastewater treatment system.

Traffic. It appears certain that a five-fold increase in total population and a 30-fold increase in children within a single 396-dwelling project necessarily causes an increase in vehicle trips, by private vehicles, commuter buses, school buses and other means of transportation. The DEIS and FEIS fail to study or evaluate traffic impacts, on roadways, intersections or Route 17 exits and entrances, based on the intended number of occupants of the project.

Community and Governmental Services. The EISs find that there would be no significant adverse impact on community and governmental services, including services such as housing assistance and transportation, because the Chestnut Ridge project will be occupied by persons with higher incomes, young childless professionals, empty nesters, and retirees.

However, the documents demonstrate the developer's apparent intent that the occupants will be families consisting of ten persons on average, and that 20% to 40% of those families will qualify for Section 8 housing assistance. It is apparent that families occupying the project will require transportation services. Given the stark contrast between the apparent intended occupants and the occupants repeatedly described in the EISs, the conclusions in the EISs and the Findings Statement cannot be accurate.

Impact on Schools. The EISs state that the Chestnut Ridge project will be occupied by not more than 110 school-age children. Based upon this figure, the FEIS states that upon full construction and occupancy of the Chestnut Ridge project, the Pine Bush School District would realize net revenue as a result of the project of $498,459. However, the recently disclosed documents demonstrate the developer's apparent intent that approximately 3,168 children (average eight children per dwelling) will occupy the project. This number is almost 30 times greater than stated in the EISs. Although not all of these children will necessarily be school-age children, it is certain that the number of school-age children will greatly exceed 110. Public schools are required to provide services to students who are enrolled in the public schools and are required to provide services to private school students.

Although the intended total population of the project and the school-age population of the project significantly exceed the respective totals stated in the EISs, the tax revenue generated by the project, which is based on the total number and market value of dwelling units, is notaffected by the population totals. Therefore, although the tax revenue payable to the taxing jurisdictions will not differ from the revenues stated in the EIS, the costs of providing thos services attributab le to the project will increase.

The EIS and Findings Statement fail to account for or evaluate the impacts caused by the intended number of occupants and school-age occupants.

Short-term and long-term growth. An EIS and Findings Statement is required to evaluate and make a reasoned determination concerning long range plans of which the action under consideration is a part, and the actions and land development likely to be undertaken as a result thereof. The FEIS states that the Chestnut Ridge project is not expected to result in a demand for housing. The recently disclosed documents state that the Chestnut Ridge project is Phase I of a "transformative development . . . that will ultimately accommodate thousands of families", estimated at 5,000 dwelling units. The documents state that the developer had already acquired or optioned contiguous and nearby lands totaling approximately 500 acres. SEQR prohibits the segmented review of potential environmental impacts. The EISs, prepared by the developer, were required to, but did not, assess the short-term, long-term or cumulative impacts of such population growth. Such population growth will substantially impact many areas of environmental concern, including water supply, wastewater treatment, traffic and transportation services, schools services, and community and governmental services.

The Village Planning Board was required to, and did, rely on the DEIS, FEIS and the Findings Statement to warrant the granting of site plan and subdivision approval to the Chestnut Ridge townhouse project. Based on the disclosed documents, the repeated statements in the DEIS and FEIS that total occupancy of the project will not exceed 810, that the number of school-age children will not exceed 110, and that occupants will be persons with higher incomes, young professionals with no children, empty-nesters and retirees, are material false statements and material misrepresentations. Those material false statements and material misrepresentations directly affect the evaluation and findings regarding water supply, wastewater treatment, traffic and transportation services, schools impact, community and governmental services, and fiscal impact, and, therefore, may directly affect the integrity and lawful validity of the Planning Board's grant of approvals.

The Town of Mamakating Planning Board, by intermunicipal agreement, has assumed all of the power, authority and jurisdiction of the Village Planning Board.

Based on the new facts in the disclosed documents and the apparent material false statements and material misrepresentations contained in the DEIS, FEIS and Findings Statement, upon which the Planning Board relied in granting approvals to the Chestnut Ridge project, this Board shall consider rescission of those approvals.

THEREFORE, IT IS RESOLVED that the Planning Board shall consider rescission of the site plan approval and subdivision approval granted to the Chestnut Ridge project; hereby schedules a due process hearing for the applicant/developer to be held on June 16, 2016, at 7:00 PM, at the Town Hall; and directs the Board's attorney to provide appropriate notice.

On a motion by Member Glisson, seconded by Member Keller the foregoing resolution was adopted on a vote of 7 Ayes, 0 Nays.

Dated: May 24, 2016